As a child, in rural Montana, light years from the decadence of the 80’s, we didn’t spend much time thinking about child abuse or exploitation.
We believed a certain degree of safety could be found within a slower-paced country routine. Daily rhythms of work, school, animal care, bus rides, and church life allowed us a social buffer from many of the uglier points of an unrelenting, emerging, highly self-indulgent culture.
In olden times, otherwise known as my childhood, it seemed to me parents were held to a deliberate social standard of accountability. Family and friends noticed the children who were defended by those outward expressions of good care: clean clothes, personal hygiene, well-guided in the arts of social interaction and function followed closely by an extension and acceptance of appropriate affection. Within a small slice of life, conscious of a carefully created and protected standard for behavior and interaction, our parameters offered mutual respect and guidance for those who weren’t sure. Honorifics like Ma’am and Sir were a routine part of our world and helped us to understand the roles brought by age and experience. We knew where we fit.
Ideals like modesty and class were familiar concepts and we knew too much skin, too much glitz, too much anything wasn’t nearly as cool in practice as it was on TV.
Yet, in this seemingly idyllic world, there was plenty of ugliness, I know now, although it was voiceless and unheard at the time.
Carefully kept on the inside.
I know that needs to change. We don’t live in those quiet worlds anymore and there should be more advocates, more speaking out, less shame for the victims and less empathy for the perpetrators.
Fast-forward… No one lives on the inside anymore. Via every communication mode conceived by men, including but not limited to smoke signals and the transfer of positive thoughts, we live far outside ourselves now.
Skin tight or saggy pants show underwear as an outerwear statement in the event anyone dares to squat down. Butt-cracks abound. Low-cut tank tops and tiny shorts… The costumes of today while ever-present music thumps an endless litany of broken hearts, sexy hookups, and desperate cries for the elusive, mythical ideal of love made from hearts of countless celebrities served up for consumption and the dollars to line the pockets of handlers and publicists.
Smudged eyeliner fades to flesh tones around her tired, jaded eyes. A shaggy face, messy hair, and ripped jeans replace his once fresh, Rockwell-ian, demeanor. Previously inquisitive natures are dimmed by a cloying cynicism within the unrealized promise of an acceptance that never quite feels real.
A blatant disregard of dignity at the expense of innocence happens to us all when department stores and online retailers hawk thong lingerie for 10 year olds and padded bras for little girls barely filling an A cup. The consumer, abandoning the protector’s role, is often the very one shelling out the money. A society of over-sexualized adults gleefully buys in to the concepts. When even fathers are affirming curve-hugging pants on little girls in women’s bodies, communicating that this is what makes us beautiful, and accepted, how can we hope to change a pervasive mentality?
Several generations of men and women holding white-knuckled and squinty-eyed to a carefully crafted commercial ideal of sexy, while worshipping at the altar of youth, keep us moving toward an ever younger sexualizing of children. Incidentally, this is a mentality which has very little do with “appeal” and everything to do with human beings becoming a sale-able commodity in the current market.
A constant influx of “thigh gap”, “six-pack”, “hotness”, and “get the girl/boy” with very little emphasis put on character or personal identity steadily eats away any sense of personal identity outside the façade.
Humanity and the inherent shortcomings we share easily become joke fodder for comedy shows and late night TV as selling ourselves, one bite at a time, for the biggest laugh, the strongest responses, and the quickest fix of affirmation we work on bolstering fragile egos existing only as long as they are propped up by the promotion of others.
Collectively pitying the unfortunately un-beautiful with pocked faces, sagging hair and bodies, or thighs exceeding the maximum allowed for a visual beauty ideal. Obsessively flipping through magazines where celebrities are hunted for one shot “without makeup” showing them to be as flawed as we are.
Somewhere, aimless and unguarded, in the middle of perfectly painted faces and addiction to image, are the Lost Children.
They are run recklessly through our neighborhoods, shockingly hungry for attention, and while adults absorb themselves on Facebook, incessant selfies, and more of Whatever, they have become prey.
I understand messy days and the awesome found at the bottom of a mud puddle. My kids enjoy their fair amount of dirt. But this? This is different.
These are small fry with physically present, mentally and emotionally absent, care-givers who take no pride in the care of their helpless little ones.
It is both heart-breaking and physically repulsive for me to see these lost and ignored little ones in their filthy clothes, dirty faces, and loud voices demanding attention and affection from anyone around them. Dirty pants sagging, bottoms hanging out and hearts attaching themselves to anyone who shows the slightest kindness while their guardians, ignorant of the vileness of refusing sanctity to these little bodies and souls when they are uncovered, leave them exposed to the voyeuristic eyes and manipulation of onlookers.
Starved for affection and kindness, yet drawn like mesmerized moths to a flame, the Lost Children devour even the slightest hint of individualized attention, negative or positive, and, all too often, find themselves hunted.
Precious innocence becomes the spoils of war to the 747,408 registered sex-offenders in the US.
Huge number, right?
Remember that’s only the folks who have been caught.
Think for a moment and consider how many people you know personally who have been abused or neglected and I believe we could safely infer quite a few more than that lurking in the shadows.
While so many of our society’s children are being sexually exploited and violated, the weight of responsibility for preserving what remains of the fledgling dignity of children can be a grim prospect and feels more than a little overwhelming to those of us who care and are able to see the signs.
- 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse;
- Over the course of their lifetime, 28% of U.S. youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized
- Children are most vulnerable to CSA (child sexual assault) between the ages of 7 and 13.
Dignity, a sense of pride in oneself, self-respect and should not to be confused with conceit or arrogance, entitlement, or the blatant disregard of those around us. Dignity is found without extreme modesty and head and face coverings. Dignity ~ Divinity reflected in our created, shining purpose, and our set-apart-ness becoming infectious to those around us.
Will you join me over the next couple of weeks? Together we can talk about and learn a few ways to promote and preserve the dignity of humanity around us?